1001 Songs Challenge,  1950s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #77: The Knoxville Girl (1956)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…


The Louvin Brothers – The Knoxville Girl (1956)

The Knoxville Girl

” The Knoxville Girl” is an Appalachian murder ballad. It is derived from the 19th-century Irish ballad “The Wexford Girl”, itself derived from the earlier English ballad “The Bloody Miller or Hanged I Shall Be” about a murder in 1683 at Hogstow Mill, 12 miles south of Shrewsbury.

Lyrics (via Genius)


Today’s taste of the US is country music once more but this duo also dabbled in gospel as well. They are the Louvin Brothers – Charlie and Ira – to be precise and in the 1950s their careers were in a good place. The song’s origins are actually in the UK – where I am – though down in Shrewsbury, a good distance from me. It began life as an English ballad, then became an Irish ballad in the 19th century before crossing the Atlantic to take on a new form as The Knoxville Girl.

Any hope that this is a song about a lovely girl from Knoxville are very quickly dashed as Charlie and Ira casually sing about taking this nice young lady for a walk and then proceeding to murder her! She pleads for her life but all to no avail. The narrator finishes her off, throws her body in the local river and heads home. Now then, his mother is a bit sharp and asks what her son has been doing that would lead to so much blood on his shirt. Our narrator’s response? A nosebleed, mummy. I kid you not. It all ends up badly with handcuffs and the narrator is left to rot in a prison cell. Definitely not a love song then.

I did enjoy this effort from the Louvin Brothers. It’s kind of contradictory in that the country music and their voices sound so pleasant but the subject matter is anything but. As a duo the brothers work well together. Sadly, Charlie would go solo in 1963, tired of Ira’s drinking and behaviour. Ironically, Ira and his wife would die in a car accident after being hit head on by a drunk driver. Charlie would enjoy a much longer life than his brother, dying of cancer in 2011 at the age of 83.


Favourite songs so far:

Edith Piaf – La Vie en Rose (1946)

Elmore James – Dust My Broom (1952)

Little Richard – Tutti Frutti (1955)

Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel (1956)

Fats Domino – Blueberry Hill (1956)

Johnny Cash – I Walk the Line (1956)

The Louvin Brothers – The Knoxville Girl (1956)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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